Tag Archives: stuart uren

96. THE MALAYA BLUE BAND. “Heartsick” album launch at The New Crawdaddy Blues Club, Billericay, Essex. Friday 1st April, 2016

(Photo: PTMQ)

The MMB at the NCBC (Photo: PTMQ)

My first trip this year to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club, in Billericay, Essex was a good’n to say the least. It was the well-publicised and eagerly awaited launch gig for the new Malaya Blue album Heartsick. My regular readers will have already seen my pre-release review of this fine new collection in the previous entry (see #95). I arrived early enough to have a good chat with the club’s guv’nor, Blues impresario Paul Dean; plus others, including The MMB’s guitarist Dudley Ross; their manager Steve Yourglivtch;  DJ Micky SpectrumRuss Cottee of the Blues Spiders. and fellow music writer Alan Bates.

You can’t go wrong with the New Crawdaddy… every Friday night there is a band on stage that caters for one or other of the myriad sub-genres found within the Blues spectrum – something for almost everyone, in fact. And with a friendly welcoming vibe; and only a tenner to get in at the door (with some exceptions) its real value for money.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya: ‘I have arrived!’ (Photo: PTMQ)

By about 8.30, the band (minus Malaya) took to the stage ready for their first-half set. Then Chris, the NCBC’s Master of Ceremonies, announced the Lady herself; and she climbed on stage looking immaculate in a sequinned LBD – and the set kicked off with the very appropriate ‘I Have Arrived’, off the new album. It was a great start, and set the bar high for the rest of the show.

The two-part set contained a mixture of tracks from both albums. The new Heartsick songs adapted as necessary for the live show; and the older Bourbon Street numbers totally reworked. There were no covers this time, as the band have enough material of their own now, for a two-hour performance. The whole show was slick, professional, and impressive. I particularly enjoyed ‘Bluesville UK’; the reworked ‘Bitter Moon’; and the slide-driven ‘Strand Of Gold’; but its hard to pick favourites from such a high quality selection of songs. The main show finished with the rockin’ title track ‘Heartsick’ and was followed by a well-deserved standing ovation, and a demand for encore. This was duly delivered by the band; and consisted of two numbers: the emotive ‘Dawn’; and ‘Cold-Hearted Man’. And thus ended a fantastic show.

Dudley plays the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Dudley plays the Blues! (Photo: PTMQ)

Malaya’s singing and stage persona were confident and enthralling throughout. Often she was unashamedly emotional – and (as I’ve remarked before) Bassey-esque in her vocal intensity; and like-wise expressive with her hand gestures. Frequently her delivery was sassy and lively when the song demanded. But at all times she was uniquely Malaya – and this is important to remember, because she is no copy-cat; and has developed her own style, both vocally and visually. I hadn’t seen her live since August last year (see my review and interview #64); but her singing tonight surpassed even that fine earlier performance. She is obviously still going from strength to strength – and long may that continue. This new album and tour dates will raise her profile even higher, I’m sure.

The MMB is a totally different band to a year ago – the personnel have all changed in recent months, and there was no saxophonist; but the new line up have gelled together nicely as a unit…

I’ve admired Dudley Ross‘ axemanship for a while now – both on record and live. As a bit of a player myself, I often look at guitarists on stage and think ‘Yeah; I know what he’s doing, and how he’s doing it’ – although I often can’t do it myself, of course! But at times watching Dudley’s solos, I wasn’t even sure what he was doing, in terms of technique. I just knew that the sounds emanating from his Marshall head, were very satisfying indeed. There is not much that can divert your eyes from Malaya’s stage presence; but Dudley’s lead breaks certainly can! His solos were inventive and subtly played; and interesting to watch technically. At times he reminded me a little of Albert Collins (especially so on ‘Cold-Hearted Man’); and there’s no doubt that hanging out with Kirkie Fletcher recently, has improved his game; but he most certainly has his own style. This is a guitarist to watch.

Paul Jobson on Keys (Photo: PTMQ)

Paul Jobson on Keys (Photo: PTMQ)

Paul Jobson on Keys was as impressive too. This boy knows how to tickle the ivories for sure! Now, I know next to nothing about actually playing keyboards; but I do know when I hear someone who can play! Paul was impressive for his rhythm work; and more so when soloing. He and Dudley took it in turns to wow the punters – and we lapped it up! Apart from his solos, he was also particularly notable on the two songs performed in duet with Malaya at the start of Set Two.

Last – but by no means least – the rhythm section of Stuart Uren on Bass; and Andrew McGuinness on Drums; were individually superb; and as a unit, they were tight and reliable… and just damn fine, really! They enabled Dudley and Paul to do their thing with their solos at will, assured that they could return to the framework of the number after each abstract outing.

Finally, mention must also be made of Paul Dean and his crew at the club for all their hard work in getting this wonderful show up and running. That’s: Chris the Stage Manager; Chris the Soundman; Graham the Lightman; Mike the DJ and last but not least the lovely Karen on the door. Big thanks to the bar staff too. Paul has some great artists lined up for the club over the next few months. (See the link to NCBC website below). If you’re not familiar with the club, there is a more detailed description in an earlier article of mine (Red Butler at the NCBC #66).

Well after some last minute chats and congrats, it was time for my goodbyes; and I left the club feeling like I’d been a minor part of a milestone in the band’s history. If you like a good variety of Bluesy styles within one act, and you haven’t seen the Malaya Blue Band in action yet, then I’d say get along to one of their gigs ASAP – you won’t be disappointed. PTMQ

Here is a link to Malaya’s website

Here is a link to the New Crawdaddy’s website

Here is a link to Micky Spectrum’s website

95. MALAYA BLUE “Heartsick” (2016). A pre-release review.

(Image: Malaya Blue)

(Image: Malaya Blue)

They say the second album is always a difficult one to make. When I spoke to Malaya Blue at a gig last summer (see my article #64), she was very much aware of this; and it is worth quoting the lady once again: ‘There’s a little bit of me that’s anxious about the second album’ she told me. ‘Its always difficult.  Do you do the first album again? Or do you move into something new?  There is the danger of people buying the second album, and the first thing they do is compare it to the first. But I have the opportunity to be better, bolder, brighter –  bring something slightly unexpected.’ Well she had some song titles back in August, and the deadline she gave then, March/April, has been met. She and her boys have been working hard, that’s for sure.

So what, I hear you ask, have the lady and her team come up with this second time? Malaya’s manager Steve Yourglivch sent me a pre-release download of the eleven-track Heartsick for review; and I must say I was immediately impressed by the whole collection. It is certainly not a copy of her first album – the remarkable, and highly acclaimed Bourbon Street. From the opening riffs on the title track; through the heart-rending emotion of ‘Acceptance’; the breath-taking keyboard and guitar solos on ‘Colour Blind’ that made me smile in appreciation; and the chirpy optimism of ‘Share The Love’; to the final unexpected ending of ‘Soul Come Back’;  it is a beautiful journey through Malaya’s musically creative mind.

There was something of the Soul Diva strongly hinted at on Bourbon Street; (even more so on the double A-Side single released last summer); and Malaya’s musical background has certainly been steeped in that genre; but her very successful foray into Jazz-Blues on the debut album has enhanced this first love, and contributed to a well-rounded collection this time, that owes everything to the sum of her vocal/musical experience to date. The result is probably a far more personal album than the debut, I think. There are Soul; Blues; Jazz; Rock; Funk; and Gospel vibes going on in this album. This what Malaya Blue is all about!

On every song, She is dripping honey-voiced emotion over skillfully woven tapestries of layered sounds. She sings from the heart; from the soul… they are mostly her songs and totally her lyrics after all. And they are good lyrics too – interesting, and cleverly worded – demonstrating her considerable skills as a wordsmith too.

A fine band of musicians were assembled for the album. These consist of Malaya’s band: Dudley Ross (Guitars); Paul Jobson (Keys); Stuart Uren (Bass); Andrew McGuiness (Drums/Percs). And in addition to these: Paul Long (Piano); Carl Hudson (Piano); The Westward String Quartet (Strings); and none other than the legendary Blues aficionado Paul Jones (Harp). Strings were arranged by Dudley; Paul Long and Malaya’s husband Graham Pettican. The album was recorded at The Grange, Norfolk; engineered by Dave Williams; and cover artwork is by Chris Pettican.

I can’t comment on the CD version yet because I haven’t seen it. But it apparently comes with an eight-page booklet of lyrics; credits; thanks etc. So its a big thumbs up from the Quill. The album is released on Friday 1st April. PTMQ

Link to Malaya’s website